One and counting
Guillaume Latendresse gets mobbed by Saku Koivu and Michael Ryder after scoring his first NHL goal.
MONTREAL - It may not have happened the way he always dreamed it would, but Guillaume Latendresse finally scored his first NHL goal even though it took a video replay to make it official.
The suspense may have lasted only a few moments, but it must have felt like hours to Latendresse. His go-ahead goal at the 1:04 mark of the third period was initially credited to Saku Koivu before PA announcer Michel Lacroix announced the change. Koivu's shot that beat Dwayne Rolosson sat agonizingly on the goal line until Latendresse hammered it home.
"Luckily for me, they changed the goal," admitted Latendresse, who was also fortunate that veteran Craig Rivet managed to snag his precious souvenir puck. "If they hadn't made the switch, I would have looked pretty silly considering how much I celebrated after the puck went in."
Michael Ryder had the best seat in the house for Latendresse's big moment.
"I was stuck behind the net and there was nothing I could do. It was sitting there right on the line. I just wanted someone to get it and do something!" said Ryder, who assisted on Latendresse's milestone goal. "It's going to take a little time for us to get used to playing together but I'm really happy he got that first one out of the way."
Head coach Guy Carbonneau was also glad to see his young winger finally light the lamp.
"Maybe now everyone will leave him alone," said Carbonneau, who liked what he saw from his 19-year-old prodigy in his first game on the team's top line. "Now that he scored that first goal, he can think of something else and focus on other parts of his game."
As he has throughout his whirlwind rookie NHL campaign so far, Latendresse looked unfazed by all the commotion.
"But to be honest, I was really comfortable out there with Saku and Mike," said Latendresse, the game's first star. "They talked to me a lot on the ice, which shows they have confidence in me and they want to help me succeed."
Aside from his long-awaited goal, it was just another night at the office for Latendresse who made good use of his season-high 19:46 minutes of ice-time, doling out a game-high five shots and six hits. The 6-foot-2, 229-pounder now dominates all NHL rookies with 29 hits this season.
Even before they became linemates, Koivu has preached patience regarding Latendresse and that won't change now that Guillaume has broken the ice.
"This goal must take a huge weight off his shoulders, especially since this is where he's from," said Koivu. "I remember in 1995-96 when I needed 6 or 7 games to score my first goal against the Kings how much better and more relaxed I felt. He's still so young and he has many goals ahead of him. Everyone just has to show some patience and give him a little time."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com